Confession is good for the soul.
So is keeping an open mind.
For instance, Larry Kobrovsky told me Friday that when he started his 1993-98 tenure on the Charleston County School Board, "I was a very liberal person."
Then he was "astounded" to see that the folks then running the Charleston County School District "thought conduct didn't matter."
Kobrovsky also was stunned to discover that report-card conduct grades, "universal at one time," had become virtually obsolete.
He quickly started advocating their revival.
And as the start of another school year looms (Charleston and Dorchester county districts start Monday, Berkeley County Tuesday), Kobrovsky, now a member of the State Board of Education, is still pushing that idea. On Wednesday in Columbia, he proposed requiring letter grades for conduct based on "effort, punctuality and neatness."
State Board Chairwoman-elect Traci Young Cooper, the 2002 S.C. teacher of the year at Columbia's C.A. Johnson High School, opposed Kobrovsky's initiative. She argued that report cards already have comment space where teachers can alert parents to behavior concerns if needed.
But Kobrovsky, an attorney, makes a strong case for his conduct-grade plan. Though he knows it's unlikely to be approved before his State Board stint ends in December, he's hoping S.C. education superintendent candidates Molly Spearman and Tom Thompson will have to address the topic before Election Day.
Kobrovsky conceded Friday that grading conduct is no "magic bullet" for discipline problems. However, he correctly linked good conduct and good academic results: "Whatever you get out of education is proportional to the effort you put into it."
He also decried the "chaos" and "violence" that can ensue when student misconduct is allowed to escalate.
He fairly reversed the modern charge that conduct grading is "unfair to children from disadvantaged backgrounds." He debunked that patronizing manifestation of "cultural relativity" by stressing schools' responsibility to "mold behavior and expectations."
And he pointed out that disadvantaged children "are the ones who most need it."
Yet you don't have to take just Kobrovsky's word for the benefits of grading conduct.
Take mine, based on this still-vivid lesson from long ago:
During the 1961-62 school year, a third-grade teacher at St. Andrews Elementary gave an energetic, chatty and, well, mischievous boy a "D" in conduct.
After seeing that mark of disgrace, the lad's mother gave him a brief hearing before rejecting his juvenile protests of injustice. She then required him to suffer the indignity of taking a note to school each day with one word missing for the teacher to fill in, sign and send back home with him.
The note's wording: "Frank was ____ in school today."
Six weeks later, that boy got - make that earned - a "B" in conduct.
His mom and that teacher even became good friends.
OK, so that anecdote doesn't mean bad conduct grades always produce better behavior.
After all, some parents don't much care about their kids' grades in readin', writin' and 'rithmetic, much less in conduct. And despite the fog of time, it's clear that way back then, parents weren't as easily duped by their guilty kids' innocent pleas.
Still, encouraging - heck, demanding - good conduct makes good sense.
You're never too old
So why limit behavior accountability to kids?
Why not grade adults on conduct, too?
Maybe if the drunken rowdies proliferating on Charleston's after-dark streets had been regularly graded down for poor behavior in school, fewer of them would make such an obnoxious racket, stagger into traffic and sucker-punch innocent bystanders.
Maybe we could also impose a dress code to spare refined residents below Calhoun Street (and even below Market and Broad) the aesthetically appalling spectacle of gawking cruise-ship-passenger intruders garishly garbed in T-shirts, shorts and flip-flops.
What should be the consequences for adults who flunk conduct?
Perhaps we could publish their names in this, South Carolina's largest circulation newspaper. That would shame some habitual misconductors into acting right - and deter others trending toward trouble from risking such high-profile ignominy.
Sure, determining who should determine those grades is tricky.
But hey, I've already offered to serve as a local Obamacare death panel of one.
Now here's my offer to also serve as the local adult conduct grader.
So whatever your age, behave yourself.
Otherwise, somebody might tell your mom.
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is email@example.com.
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